Researchers from Oregon State University reported the results of a spectacular new genus and flower species from the Mid-Cretaceous period. As reported in the Journal of the Texas Botanical Research Institute, a male specimen was discovered whose sun-like appearance was frozen in time in Burmese amber for approximately 100 million years.
Analysis of the flower showed that the egg-shaped “cup” is made of a total of nine petals and two “lobes” that release the pollen.
The flower's Latin name is Valviloculus pleristaminis. The prefix, valva, means leaf on a folding door, loculus means compartment, plerus refers to many, and staminis refers to the flower's many male sex organs.
“This isn’t quite a Christmas flower but it is a beauty, especially considering it was part of a forest that existed 100 million years ago,” commented George Poinar Jr., professor emeritus in the OSU College of Science.
The plant fossil got buried in amber on a supercontinent, then moved on a continental plate 4,000 miles across the globe, and ended up in Asia.
Geologists have debated exactly when this chunk of land broke away from Gondwana. Some say it was 200 million years ago; others suggest it was more like 500 million years ago.
Several angiosperm flowers in Burmese amber have been found, the bulk of which were discovered by Poinar and his team at Oregon University.
Angiosperms are plants with stems, roots, stalks and leaves, that produce seeds of their own, which are fertilized and grow within the flowers.
Because angiosperms only formed in the last 100 million years, the Congo Block may not have split from Gondwana prior to then, Poinar said, which is much later than dates that have been proposed by geologists.
Cover Photo: Oregon State